If this were a Friends episode, it would be called “The One Where Ashley Finally Gets Her Ass Handed to Her,” but before we get to the meat of the episode, we have to chew through a few layers of buns. The first consists of Teresa’s staged interactions with her family as a photographer attempts to get some half-decent shots for the new cookbook. All hell breaks loose as baby Audrina whips off her headband, her soft, forming head unable to take the pressure a second more, and long-suffering Gabriella can’t keep her eyes from rolling upward. This isn’t a show of Ashleyian disrespect, but rather it's just what happens when Gabriella slips out of consciousness and away to a dream world, where she’s made a bindle out of a Louis Vuitton scarf, put on her bedazzled Uggs, and hopped a freight train out of town. Over at the kitchen island, Milania sobs as she’s put to work kneading dough, and Teresa keeps telling her, “You’re good,” which isn’t even true when Milania’s happy. And Gia, who’s supposed to be the professional model of the family, can’t even pretend to gaze up at her mother lovingly as they pretend to stir something pretend in a bowl together. What has happened to the girl who used to crush her poses at the end of every runway? Well, she’s growing up and figuring out that her parents are not only human, but also embarrassing assholes.
Kathy’s daughter Victoria is growing up, too. Junior Formal is just around the corner, and Kathy ventures that it’s time to talk to her about what boys are really thinking about when they look at your Glamour Shots®. But Mr. Dickface wants to veto that discussion because his daughter is “only 16,” so I think someone needs to sit him down in front of the television the next time MTV does one of their 16 and Pregnant marathons. He seems to have no understanding that sometimes a junior Mr. Dickface comes along and sweeps you right off your feet. For once, Kathy is the reasonable person in this scene, understanding that Victoria’s probably not going to wait for her wedding night, but Lebanese Jon Lovitz (for old time’s sake!) is so sure a talk about intercourse is going to corrupt his daughter that he actually believes he would see the physical change in a photo. No joke. He’s like a character in a Judy Blume book who thinks the first thing you do after losing your virginity is run to your dresser mirror.
Kathy loses me again when she decides to have “the Talk” at “the Fig Leaf,” which is not a euphemism, but a Jersey boutique where she’s taken Victoria prom shopping. After Victoria falls for a gown that’s best described as “blue Jessica Rabbit with more chiffon,” Kathy thinks it’s an amazing time to launch into a sensitive chat about vaginal allure as the bored, nosy sales girls lean forward behind them like they’re watching Dr. Phil. And instead of talking to her daughter in any real concrete way about teenage sex, self-worth, and protection, Kathy just kinda widens her eyes and says some general stuff about boys’ “ulterior motives” and then, presumably, buys her kid the dress with the molded boob cups.
Someone who knows a thing or two about putting yourself “on display” is Melissa, who discovers that even the dead are watching every day when her sister reveals that a medium told their cousin that Melissa’s deceased father (you still with me?) said Mel is going to be a star. Because it’s my job to recap, I feel obligated to mention that I’m pretty sure Melissa believes people who talk to the dead are “medians.” But hey, even a strip in a middle of the road knows that Melissa is destined to win a Grammy, AMIRITE? And okay, maybe the medium arrived at Melissa’s father’s name by going, “Something about an aunt an aunt ” until the cousin filled in, “Anthony!” and maybe this gifted oracle scraped together the very vague message that “whatever [Melissa’s] doing, she’s going to be big,” but Mel is sold. She doesn’t usually believe in these things, but the combination of “aunt” and “whatever she’s doing” is just so specific that she can’t deny the supernatural forces behind this spot-on premonition.
So when the Soul Diggaz show up to record Melissa’s single in her basement studio, it’s more like they’re at the behest of the future than of Joe Gorga’s money. It’s as if they’re Marty McFlys, but instead of making certain their parents get together, they’ve got to ensure that Melissa lays down her album tracks. Joe does his part by telling his wife to “get a little sexy” and “grab the microphone like it’s me,” and I guess it really helps Melissa to picture herself singing into Joe’s penis because she manages to get through her vocal mostly on the beat. And you know what that gets. Yes you do. A "thank you, Jeeeeeeesus" and a kiss at the ceiling.
Somebody else has been making it big and that’s Lauren Manzo, whom Caroline comforts by saying, “You got eight pounds of sausage in a five-pound bag — so what?” Kind of reminds me of the time that I didn’t think I was pretty enough and my Jewish mother said, “You got three ounces of brisket in a one-ounce nose — so what?” Moms and their calming meat metaphors, you know! Then the Manzo family (minus Albert and plus sister Greg) go to the gym together to support Lauren in her drive to lose weight. As Greg does sit-ups, he accidentally gives Lauren a peek at his pale testicles, which I’m guessing are like five-pound meatballs in eight-pound dough-sacks.
And now we’ve made our way to the real meat of the episode, which poses the gnawing question: How do you solve a problem like Ashley? Well, first you fly in her dad and his gigantic head scar from Texas, along with his stunned-looking wife Jodi. Then you get them together at a restaurant along with Jacqueline and Christopher for the purpose of attempting an intervention on the knit beanie who likes to party. Basically, everyone just wants to know, what is it that Dead Eyes wants to do with her life, and how is she going to accomplish a goal? Any goal. I really believe these people will take any goal that reaches beyond magically getting an apartment in an expensive city. Because it turns out that Ashley’s off that whole Manhattan thing she was crying about a few episodes back and now she wants to move to California, even though she has no money. (I guess a certain someone tired of watching reruns of Sex and the City on E! and got super into fresh eps of 90210.) Before you judge her reasons for wanting to escape the monsters who have given her — two years into adulthood — free housing, meals, a Jeep, and unconditional love, you should know that sometimes they have expected her to BABYSIT her HALF-SIBLINGS for an HOUR and maybe even worse than that, they have wanted her to pursue a DREAM!! Can you believe such sadists exist?
No, they just won’t let up. Tell us a dream, any dream, they demand, riding her as if they’re Satan’s horsemen, and so Ashley has to throw them a wretched, rotting bone before they rip her limb from limb. “Beauty school,” she says, but somehow her family isn’t buying it, maybe because she just got finished whining about how she doesn’t want to do design work for her cousin Lauren because the artistic direction wasn’t her “style.” They’re already picturing Ashley losing her shit and walking out on a client when she asks for a look that involves more than lip gloss. So then Jacqueline scrounges up that last, minuscule glimmer of hope she has concerning her eldest child and essentially pleads for some kind of realistic plan, and this inspires Ashley to bring out her A-game. (In this case, A stands for “asshole.”) She tells her mom, “I’m 20 and I don’t have a kid ... I’ve at least made it that far,” implying that she’s not only doing better than Jacqueline managed at that age, but also that Jacqueline was a bigger fuck-up.
And that’s when Jacqueline finally, rightfully loses it on her daughter. I hope that someone on the Internet has made an animated GIF of the guy’s face in the booth behind Jacqueline as she lets loose on Ashley because his bewilderment really captures the feeling of this overdue event. Ashley’s dad is right there alongside his ex, telling his kid that she needs to “get that chip off [her] shoulder,” but Ashley still kind of looks like she’s smirking behind her hands. Which is why Jacqueline finally finds it in herself to yell, “Get out of my house!” and then busts her way right out of that booth. If only the people in the restaurant had seen the footage from this season, they would have unanimously rose and clapped. I was hoping that Christopher would pull a reverse Billy Ocean, adding, “And get out of my car!” but he hangs back for a second to order respect for his wife. In short, Ashley’s response is that since Jacqueline didn’t put her up for adoption, Jacqueline has to put up with whatever shit Ashley wants to fling at her for the rest of her life. If you’re currently trying to get pregnant, did you just think about stopping?
Meanwhile, Jacqueline is crying in a dark chair in a dark room somewhere in the bowels of the restaurant because she thinks her daughter hates her. Christopher comes over, but even he can’t soothe her. Here’s what little consolation I can offer, Jacqueline: Your breasts looked great during the interview segments in this episode. Really great. Just very high and extremely full, nestled so incredibly tightly together in that dress. So there’s that, and I know it may not seem like much in light of your daughter being a shiftless albatross, but if you just look down, you’ll discover you’re never alone.
As the end of the episode says, this is all “ to be continued.”